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William of Colchester

William of Colchester, Abbot of Westminster from 1386 is buried in the chapel of St John the Baptist in Westminster Abbey. His stone altar tomb shows his effigy, now very worn, with traces of the original colour, wearing mass vestments and a mitre with the initials WC. Angels support the cushion his head rests on and there is a dog at his feet. The shields around the tomb base now show no coat of arms but from a seal in the Abbey archives his arms were "or, a chevron between three estoiles". No inscription remains. The tomb was moved slightly when Admiral Holmes' monument was erected in the ambulatory.

He was a son of Reginald and Alice of St Nicholas, Colchester in Essex, and he repaired their tomb at the church, and he had a sister also. In 1361-1362 he entered the Benedictine monastery at Westminster and was sent to be educated at Oxford. In the monastery he held various offices including treasurer and was sent to Avignon and Rome in connection with the Abbey's dispute with the Dean and College of St Stephen Westminster. During his abbacy the rebuilding of the nave continued, with financial support from Richard II and Henry V, He was concerned in a plot to restore Richard II to the throne and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a short period in 1400 after Henry IV's accession. Henry V restored him to favour and he was sent on important embassies, notably the Council of Constance in 1414. He presided at the General Chapter of the Benedictines at Northampton in 1411 and died in October 1420.

He is shown in a modern stained glass window in the nave.

Further reading

"William de Colchester" by E.H. Pearce, 1915

"Monks of Westminster" by E.H. Pearce, 1916

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography




Chapel of St John Baptist

Memorial Type


Material Type


William of Colchester
William of Colchester tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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